PK: Another goofy reflection of life, Hirani-style
His movies attempt to connect two completely unrelated things—for instance, a ‘tapori’ and Mahatma Gandhi —to create a third idea, which is the lovable and gently disruptive Raju Hirani brand of cinema
Sonali Ghosh Sen Kolkata
Raj Kumar Hirani has always believed in Big Ideas. His movies attempt to connect two completely unrelated things— for instance, a “tapori” and Mahatma Gandhi — to create a third idea, which is the goofy, lovable and gently disruptive Raju Hirani brand of cinema. It appeals to all audiences: the rickshawwallah, your grandmother or your college-going neighbour.
He is a filmmaker who doesn’t just tell stories. He gives you a fable with a moral and a healthy dose of humour with a sermon thrown in. It has worked for him in the past, in the Munnabhai movies and in 3 Idiots. In PK, he doesn’t digress from the formula. This time he takes on the sermonisers and the sermonised—the godmen, the priests and devotees—to deliver a preachy little fable of his own.
The alien savant, PK (Aamir Khan) lands on Earth to ask all the uncomfortable questions we as earthlings have been socially conditioned into not asking about religion. Why do widows wear white in one religion while others get married in white? Why is drinking wine sacred in one religion and anathema in another? Why does one spend so much on religion, when you can’t spend on your fellow human?
These are serious issues, but cloaked in humour. They engage the audience and help get Hirani’s enjoyably subversive message across. And to deliver this message is our real-life ‘Satyamev Jayate’ preacher, Aamir, now disguised as a wide-eyed, Bhojpuri-speaking elfin-alien with jug ears, trying to find his way back home. Helping him on his journey is Jagat Janani a.k.a Jaggu (Anushka Sharma), an intrepid TV reporter with a little inter-religion back-story of her own.
The only way to get PK to his planet is to retrieve his stolen remote from Tapasviji (Saurabh Shukla in a deliciously malicious role). The journey begins with the search for God and the discovery of many religions and, of course, the hypocrites, manipulators and fanatics who tag along. Making PK’s view of religion literally that of an “outsider” is a smart screenplay trick by Hirani and fellow writer Abhijit Joshi. It helps us view the sacred cow that is religion through an objective
lens, turning everything into self deprecatory humour.
The story is told through vignettes, each scene a little skit of its own where each point—where PK picks up his clothes, how PK learns Bhojpuri and how PK discovers religion—is told none too subtly. There are running gags aplenty, of which some work and some don’t. It’s almost as if Hirani has discovered many surprises in his Christmas stocking and refuses to let go. This includes the catch phrase which has been his trademark, such as “aall izz well”, jaadu ki jhappi and Gandhigiri. In this case it is “Wrong Number”.
This is Hirani’s ‘aam aadmi’ moment, when he gets to mobilise the masses into action, the way he does in his movies. It, however, is now becoming too predictable. Hirani is in danger of falling into a formulaic rut of his own making. Pruning the film of a few gags, a bit of the moralising and keeping a few scenes without his favourite catchword would have helped the venture immensely.
What stops the film from becoming too mawkish are the sheer joy and faith the makers have in the plot. This takes care of the plot’s loopholes, the cloying moments and even the songs. What also keeps the plot going for the audience, in the sluggish second half, is the way Aamir completely inhabits PK’s alien skin as if it were his own. He wants to make you believe in streetsmart yet innocent aliens, who go around stealing clothes, learning a language just by touching someone’s hand and, like a fairy godmother set things right when they seem to be going hopelessly wrong.
He is ably supported in this venture by the quirky Anushka, who is a perfect foil to PK. Not taking away from her fine performance, her only continuity flaw seems to be her overly enhanced lips which magically fluctuate in size from scene to scene. She has wonderful chemistry with Sushant Singh Rajput as she has with Aamir. Boman Irani and Sanjay Dutt (both Hirani regulars) play amiable talismanic cameos, which lend it further heft and likeability.
Some might say Hirani has attempted to tackle too much in this new film, that he offers an overtly simplistic solution to a very complex problem. But when you are on the rollercoaster of a Hirani film, you want to absorb his feel- good style of filmmaking, with its huge dollops of kindness and wit. It quietly nudges you into questioning yourself and cures you of your inherent cynicism about the magic wand of hope.
And at the end of a long, hard year, we aren’t complaining.